President Donald Trump and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speak during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Picture: Carolyn Kaster/AP
US President Donald Trump wants to end foreign aid to countries that consistently vote against it at the UN. Despite cries of “extortion” and “bribery” from outraged aid recipients, this is a damn fine idea of Trump’s.

Internationally, it’s a wake-up call to a host of nations that view the US as an all-year-round Father Christmas. And to the many Americans, not only in the Trump administration, who see global politics in simplistic transactional terms - we pay, you dance - it’s going to deliver an unexpected bucket of cold water in the face.

Whatever the altruistic goals, aid is not only a humanitarian project by nations. There are reciprocal economic benefits and there is, of course, the influence that money buys.

On the expenditure side of that equation, the US is not as unassailable as Trump claims. The US, depending on how you slice-and-dice definitions of aid, doled out $31billion-$43bn in 2015.

China’s murky aid budget was about $38bn and that of the EU was $92bn.

Unlike Trump bemoaning how meagre the bang the US gets for its buck, the Chinese must be delighted with the returns they get from theirs. This week the Dominican Republic hastily cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan after being offered a $3.1bn package in “loans and investment” by China.

In contrast, there is a slew of countries that have been sucking for decades at the teat of American munificence, without delivering an iota in return. Among them, in Africa, are Burundi, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

President Donald Trump applauds the audience after speaking at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Dallas. Picture: Sue Ogrocki/AP

Along with the likes of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Cuba and Bolivia, these are the countries that most often align against the US. With the exception of South Africa, none is a functioning democracy with a defensible human rights record - what Trump would probably class as “s***hole” countries.

Chinese officials would never be as crass as Trump, despite anecdotally being notoriously disparaging about Africans behind their backs. China’s diplomatically savvy courtesy extends to complete indifference towards governance failures, human rights abuses and rigged elections.

Take Zimbabwe. During the past two decades, US aid of about a $150m a year was all devoted to projects aimed at improving food security in a country where every social indicator - from life expectancy to extreme poverty - was on rapid rewind.

China’s support for the government of deposed president Robert Mugabe is much more difficult to quantify, since Chinese investment and aid are virtually synonymous. But it amounts to billions and was rewarded with Zimbabwe’s political fealty in international forums.

So, pardon my guffaws this week when George Charamba, press secretary in the Zimbabwean presidency, explained the lofty reasons for his country to so often vote against the US: “We never pander to the foreign policy of another power,” he said, “whether it is America or any other powerwe vote on the basis of principle.”

Far more honest was a former Sierra Leone ambassador to China, who a few years back explained why Africa prefers China’s “unconditional” aid to that coming from the West. “The Chinese don’t hold meetings about environmental impact assessment, human rights, bad governance and good governance they don’t set high benchmarks.”

But, as the adage goes, if it seems too good to be true, it is. Nothing is unconditional, as this week’s unabashed about-face on Taiwan by the Dominican Republic shows.

There is nothing innately wrong, then, in Trump - ever the businessman looking at the bottom line - bemoaning what he perceives to be a poor return on investment.

The nations that have been put on notice will, at the very least, have to weigh in their dealings with the US, as they already have to do with China, the monetary cost of their principles.

But Trump - whose political morality has all the nuance of that of a great white shark - is probably going to be disappointed. It is never a simple equation of aid equals votes.

There are not only competing suppliers of aid, with conflicting ideologies, but there are shifting alliances based on ever-changing strategic considerations.

The 13 biggest beneficiaries of US foreign assistance voted in line with US positions at the UN an average of just 26.5% of the time last year, according to the State Department analysis. Exclude Israel and that drops to 20.9%.

Last year the UN voted by 128-9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The vote against the US included every single one of its historical allies, except for Australia and Canada, who abstained.

It is a perfidious world, indeed, Mr Trump. And no amount of money - call it aid, or call it bribery or extortion - will change reality on those occasions that one is completely out of step with everyone else.

* Follow WSM on Twitter @TheJaundicedEye

** The views expressed are here not those of Independent Media